A campaign by the Dr Ekuru Aukot-led Thirdway Alliance to amend the Constitution has now gathered 600,000 signatures, 400,000 shy of the one million needed to pass through the first stage of the planned referendum.
The signatures will be presented to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission for verification before the Referendum Bill can be presented to the 47 county assemblies for approval. It will then go to the National Assembly and Senate after which, if passed, it will be presented to Kenyans in a popular vote. Thirdway has proposed a referendum to introduce a seven-year-one-term presidency, install 194 members of the National Assembly and the Senate, down from the current 417, abolish nominations in both Houses, as well as impose a life sentence on people convicted of corruption and theft of public funds.
The party is further proposing that salaries for State officials be capped at Sh500,000 inclusive of allowances for the President, and Sh300,000 for MPs.
“This campaign is now taking a life of its own. It is no longer a party affair, but a Kenyan affair. Kenyans are endorsing it regardless of their political persuasion,” Dr Aukot said at his party offices yesterday.
In the National Assembly, MPs Justus Murunga (Matungu), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Tindi Mwale (Butere), Titus Khamala (Lurambi) and Ayub Savula of Lugari called for the scrapping of the Senate and the appointment of ministers from among the elected MPs.
“What we want is to see the wage bill go down, and it must start from the top,” Mr Murunga said, noting that reduction of the 349 MPs and about 2,400 MCAs is top on the agenda.
Mr Savula said: “The current Constitution was crafted by activists.”
At the same time, former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto and former Roads Minister Franklin Bett want the Building Bridges Initiative Committee — the 14-member team formed after the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga — reconstituted in the wake of calls for constitutional amendments.
“The committee has outlived its usefulness and there is a need to expand it to include those who were not available or were not involved during the meeting between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, which resulted in the handshake,” the two leaders said.
Former Cabinet ministers John Koech, Paul Sang and Langat Magerer, former MPs Zakayo Cheruiyot (Kuresoi), Sammy Koech (Konoin), Anthony Kimetto (Sotik) and former Kericho Woman Rep Hellen Chepkwony said the proposed constitutional amendments should address the issues that were left out in the new Constitution promulgated in 2010.
Speaking when they visited former Konoin MP Nathaniel Chebelion, who is ailing, at his home in Bomet, the leaders said the proposed constitutional changes should be well thought-out and not hurried to create an impression they are meant to benefit certain people.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono and Soy MP Caleb Kositany warned Mr Odinga against what they said was using the referendum to derail the Jubilee administration from achieving the Big Four agenda. “Raila wants to bring confusion in government because now we may not focus on the Big Four but chase the referendum,” said Mr Cherargei on the phone.
In Vihiga, Governor Wilbur Ottichilo yesterday supported calls to reduce the number of counties from the current 47 to 14. Dr Ottichilo said some counties, Vihiga included, are not viable, and that is why they are joining regional economic blocs to create bigger and viable units. "Devolution was about development but the wage bill in most counties is too high, leaving only 30 per cent for development," he said.
“Let us go for the Bomas draft that proposed the country be divided into 14 regions."
But the proposal was rejected by Laikipia Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru. "I reject any efforts to merge these counties at the expense of development. Laikipia is a marginalised county and it will not be possible to merge it with a land flowing with milk and potatoes like Nyandarua or Nyeri,” said Ms Waruguru in Nyahururu.
In Embu, Senator Njeru Ndwiga, Mbeere South MP Geoffrey King’ang’i, John Muchiri (Manyatta) and MP Cecily Mbarire said it was wrong for a few individuals to set the questions, which the public do not have a chance to interrogate.
They said every Kenyan must be included in the process. “They should bring their questions and we give ours. We know the problems the government is facing. I was there in the clamour for the current Constitution, we don’t want people who think they own the Constitution … it is ours,” said Mr Ndwiga.
Ms Mbarire said: “People should not come to us telling us what they want changed in the Constitution; they should come to Kenyans and ask their views. We want an all-inclusive process.”
Reported by Patrick Lang’at, David Mwere, Vitalis Kimutai, Charles Wanyoro, Steve Njugunah, Onyango K’onyango, Tom Matoke, and Derick Luvega.